Tag Archive for rye

Alley 26

Alley 26
320 East Chapel Hill St.
Downtown Durham
$9 to $12 per drink
4 pm to 2 am
(May I take this moment to say
I love a bar that posts a closing time?)

alley 26 01

To my disappointment, Alley 26, Durham’s newest upscale bar, is not located in an alley. It takes up actual streetfront property, though I’m sure the alley beside it will be used in nicer weather than we had when I tried it in February. I was pleasantly surprised to find the bar had more than a handful of patrons at 8 pm, mostly young professionals. That’s a good sign for me because I like mid-evening drinking but I hate feeling like the only person in a joint.

alley 26 02

The bartenders dress in today’s snazzy bar wear, namely nice vests over black pants and button-up shirts. Jazz plays over the stereo system, but none of that elevator music. Instead, a beautiful jazz lyricist sang loud and clear on the recordings. The vibe is somewhere between an antique saloon and a speakeasy with tables built of medium-colored wood and a row of benches covered by peach cushions that aren’t very comfortable but are somehow perfect because they make you feel like you’re at your cool, alcoholic great-aunt’s house. You know, Aunt Maude’s place.

(Insert standard apology for bad low-lighting pictures here. If anyone wants to be my 2.8 f/s or wider lens fairy godmother, you knock yourself out, okay?)

(Insert standard apology for bad low-lighting pictures here. If anyone wants to be my 2.8 f/s or wider lens fairy godmother, you knock yourself out, okay?)

The Corpse Reviver No. Twenty Six, the bar’s take on the standard concoction, is made with a North Carolinian apple brandy, Lillet rosé, Aperol, lemon, and a brut rosé. It’s a distinctly fruity corpse reviver with a gorgeous color. The citrus elements of the drink are delightful, and the mild bitterness of the Aperol counteracts the nearly peach flavor of the brandy. With light fizz tickling my tongue, I found it an exquisite, vibrant drink.

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Pizzeria Toro

Pizzeria Toro
105 E. Chapel Hill St.
Five Points, Durham
$12 to 1$16
11 am to 11 pm daily

Pizzeria Toro 01

Pizzeria Toro is an alluring and exciting gourmet pizza restaurant. I am jealous of downtown Durham residents who have this gem down the block.  At first look, the main dining room appears to be an office conference room with light brown, wooden, spinning chairs and a long, central table, which may be off-putting for some. But the cavernous, open-air pizza oven and kitchen dominate and bring a warm, casual vibe to the space. It’s a big city restaurant that successfully fosters a neighborhood feel. I want to spend whole nights there. I really do.

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Pizzeria Toro 02

Even the dish towels used as napkins contribute to that relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. And any restaurant playing independent rock instead of contemporary anything gets bonus points. There is a darker bar adjacent to the dining room space, but I never went in.

There are a few more cocktail combinations at Pizzeria Toro than there are appetizer or salad choices, which is a plus in my book. I decided on the Horsefeather made with rye whiskey, Blenheim’s “Old #3 Hot” ginger ale, and orange bitters served on the rocks in a tall glass.

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Going down like cinnamon candy, the drink had plenty of heat, great complexity from the bitters, and a touch of sweetness from the ale that made for a fabulous concoction. I nursed it throughout the meal, and it was good to the last drop, which is rare for an iced drink.

My husband and I shared a salad, pizza, and dessert. The salad was shaved chicory, fennel, Chapel Hill Creamery’s Calvander cheese, and truffle.

Pizzeria Toro 05

This is when I again remark that I have no idea what truffle contributes to a dish. I have no idea if I tasted it at all. But the rest of the salad was crisp, intriguing, and fun to eat if too bitter overall. The Calvander gave the dish a fair bit of creaminess to dilute the bitter vegetables’ flavors, but it wasn’t entirely successful. I blame that on the tangy vinaigrette. Add a little cream to that, and this dish would soar.

I had no such concerns with the pizza.

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We chose the spicy lamb meatball pizza with rapini and Cacia di Roma sheep’s cheese. The thin crust was coated in something like semolina to give it grit, attractively bubbly all around, and charred on the edges. The whole pizza was shiny with that appetizing grease sheen. You know what I mean, when it’s enough to pull you in but not enough to gross you out. In other words, probably brushed with olive oil before baking. The meatballs fall apart at the slightest jostling and melt away fast in your mouth. Perhaps the roasted whole garlic cloves are a bit much, but that’s me pulling critique out of my ass. It’s a great pizza.

Dessert was just as satisfying. We had a pear crostada with clobber and caramel.

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Clobber, based on our devouring of the dessert, is that lemon curd and clotted cream hybrid dolloped on the side. The pastry was baked perfectly, and all the ingredients were top-notch. I especially liked the note of savoriness the basil sprinkle added.

Other than finding the salad a touch too bitter, our meal at Pizzeria Toro was amazing and I didn’t even try the antipasti or special ham charcuterie. I am now accepting invitations to be anyone’s dinner companion there in the future. I can’t think of a better way to while away the evening in Durham.


Pizzeria Toro on Urbanspoon

Reviewed 6 Feb 13.

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Redemption Rye

Redemption Rye
Bardstown, Kentucky


Seriously, that label is like porn to this foodie. The color, the slightly askew bold font with cursive writing and the handwritten lot # — I don’t know how to describe it. It does things to me. Things like make me buy the bottle. And I have not been disappointed since I did.

redemption_ rye

The whiskey’s color is yellow-brown, like light corn syrup. It smells sweet for whiskey, bringing corn to mind. The alcohol burn hits first on sipping, but it passes fast. I would call it medium bodied with vanilla, bacon, and butter notes that are really pleasant rolling over your tongue.

That’s all I have to say. It’s delicious, and I’ll buy more.


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